Turtle Identification



People often ask, what species of turtle they have, or even, whether
they have a water or box turtle. The following guide is a quick way for
determining some common types of turtles. It is essential for you to
find out what kind of turtle you have, since each type of turtle has
different requirements. 

The following are two books that I use myself:

	"The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles
        and Amphibians" by Bebler and King. ISBN 0-394-50824-6

		This book is available at most bookstores that carry
                nature books, at public libraries, and from online
                booksellers. It has photographs, maps, and basic
                descriptions of all North American turtles.

	"Turtles of the World" by C. H. Ernst and R. W. Barbour. 
	ISBN 1-56098-212-8

                This book is available at some bookstores that specialize
                in nature books and from online booksellers. It has some
                pictures, species keys, and comprehensive descriptions for
                all the turtles of the world. 

After you know what species of turtle you have, refer to 
the care sheets for basic and generic information about how to care for your
turtle. If available, acquire literature about the species of turtle you
have, so you can provide it with the best possible care. 

Note that there are some species of turtles available through the pet 
trade about which little is known. Accept the challenge and do the 
best you can with the information available. Searching the web using the 
scientific (latin) name of your turtle may often reveal additional 
information stored away at zoo and biology web sites.

The following is a simplified key to help you determine what type of
turtle you have. Follow the links to find sites that have pictures of
the indicated species of turtle.

1. If your turtle has a soft, leathery skin, it is a SOFTSHELL turtle.
   
   
2. If your turtle has webs between the toes (usually best visible at the
   rear legs), it is a aquatic or semi-aquatic water turtle. -> 6,8

3. If your turtle does not have webs between the toes, 
   it is some kind of land turtle. Don't put it into water, since many
   land turtles cannot swim! -> 5

4. If your turtle's front legs look like flippers, and you found it on 
   the beach, it is a sea turtle.
   Call a local wildlife rescue station for help! 

5. If your land turtle has a high, domed shell, it is probably a box
   turtle. -> 10
   Refer to the Box Turtle Care sheets for basic care information.

6. If your turtle has a flat, unkeeled carapace with yellow, black, and
   possibly orange or red markings, it is a Chrysemys species. This includes
   cooters, sliders, and painted turtles. Refer to the Water Turtle Care sheets
   for basic care information. -> 7

7. If your turtle is yellow/black with red or orange markings on its cheeks,
   it is a red-eared slider turtle. If there are red crescents on the marginal
   scutes, and red and yellow stripes on the legs, it is a painted turtle.
   Refer to the Water Turtle Care sheets
   for basic care information. 

8. If your turtle has a brown or black carapace with 3 ridges, and the skin is
   olive or black, you might have a Reeves turtle.
   Refer to the Water Turtle Care sheets
   for basic care information.

9. If your turtle has lots of yellow spots on the carapace, it is a spotted turtle.
   Refer to the Water Turtle Care sheets for basic care information.

10. If your box turtle has a yellow head and a yellow ridge on on a brown
    shell, you probably have a Cuora flavomarginata, which is a semi-aquatic
    box turtle. This turtle is also called Chinese Box Turtle, Yellow-headed
    Box Turtle, or Golden-headed Box Turtle.
    This turtle needs to be kept warm, and it needs a nice, big
    tub of water to wade in. These box turtles eat fruit and meat, rarely 
    vegetables. They can be finnicky eaters and are not easy to keep. 
  
11. If your turtle has the following properties, it is one of several types of snapping
    turtle:
    * Clawed front feet/webbed back feet
    * Small plastron, it looks like the turtle is wearing a shell that is too little
      for it when looked at from below
    * Large head, long tail, and long neck for the size of the shell
    * Usually dark/black carapace
    * Hooked jaws


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